Signing Off for 2014

Friends, similar to last year, I will be taking a break from blogging during the rest of the year. Both featured articles and view-worthy curations will be suspended until 2015. I will still review books weekly at Pastors Today through the end of this year, so you may look for those articles there. Likewise, I will also ease off on social media usage during the rest of the month. I’ll be around but probably not in many dialogues.

I hope you enjoyed this year with me. I enjoyed sharing with you. If you have any questions or ideas for what I should write in 2015, please comment.

Upon my return to the blogosphere in 2015, I will be thrilled to share curated posts on best books, best guest articles, and best articles at in 2014. I’ll see you in 2015…Lord willing.

Enjoy Advent with your family and loved ones. Merry Christmas!

7 Quotes from Churches Partnering Together by Chris Bruno and Matt Dirks

Churches Partnering TogetherThis week I’m reviewing Churches Partnering Together for Pastors Today. This will be the second time I read this book because I found it to be that good! Really, as a church planter, this book is an excellent primer to get pastors to team together for the glory of God. These two Hawaiian pastors have studied and practiced what the early church did when Paul facilitated the Jerusalem collection.

Here are seven quotes from this book:

1. “The Jerusalem collection was spearheaded and sustained by small congregations. We would call them kingdom churches” (17).

2. “Kingdom partnerships must be built on the gospel alone. This means that there should be a direct line between the aims of the partnership and Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection” (33).

3. “We are brought into fellowship with the Trinity and with one another so that the world may believe and join us too!” (39).

4. “Active, gospel-centered partnership are marked by one driving passion: the kingdom of God” (41).

5. “Every healthy church must fulfill some basic functions and should individually reflect the wonderful diversity of the body of Christ” (59).

6. “Catalytic leaders understand that you don’t just drift your way toward kingdom influence” (73).

7. “You can build your own little sandcastle or you can build the kingdom” (82).

View-Worthy: 12.4.14


Meaning of Advent, Is Christmas Pagan?, Lore Ferguson Interview, Between Jobs.


Justin Holcomb. What is Advent? Meaning Behind Christmas Tradition. (

For many Christians unfamiliar with the liturgical year, there may be some confusion surrounding the meaning of the Advent season. Some people may know that the Advent season focuses on expectation and think that it serves as an anticipation of Christ’s birth in the season leading up to Christmas. This is part of the story, but there’s more to Advent.

Deal of the Day

Ten Who Changed the World Daniel Akin $0.99

Book Review

Mike Cosper and Daniel Montgomery. Faithmapping: A Gospel Atlas for Your Spiritual Journey. Reviewed by Joel Badal. (Themelios)


Nathan Busenitz. Is Christmas Day Rooted in Paganism.

It’s not uncommon to hear that the celebration of Christmas is rooted in ancient Roman paganism. That claim generally goes something like this: the ancient Romans celebrated a pagan festival on December 25th, but when the Roman Empire was Christianized in the 300s, the church simply turned the pagan festival into a Christian holiday.

Christine Hoover. Singles and the Church: An Interview with Lore Ferguson. (CBMW)

Lore Ferguson is a graphic artist, writer, and speaker who is passionate about the gospel and the Church. Her stated goal in her work is “to see a generation of dechurched, second generation Christians, or the ragged and hurt, come to the joy of what the gospel means deep down.” Being a single woman covenanted to a church with many singles, she often uses her gifts to exhort both singles and church leaders to value the unique contributions that singles bring to gospel work. As we continue to highlight the diversity of people and gifts within the larger church on CBMW, I asked Lore for her insights on these unique contributions.

Luke Murry. When You Are Between Jobs. (TGC)

“Job transition.” “In between jobs.” “Unemployed.” Whatever you want to call it, these seasons are almost always characterized by doubt about yourself and anxiety about the future. My trial of unemployment was no different. Ten months before I finished grad school, I received a job offer from my dream employer in Washington, D.C. I was elated—I had been praying for this job for six years, doing all I could to present myself as the best possible candidate. And finally, there it was. A job offer that I could hold in my hands. I felt set for decades to come.


Psalm 18:31 “For who is God, but the Lord? And who is a rock, except our God?”

“The Scriptures sprang out of God.” William Tyndale

View-Worthy: 12.3.14


Pray for Church Leaders, Struggle in Growing Church, Dramatizing Gospel, Reforming Discipleship.


Chuck Lawless. Nine Ways to Pray for Church Leaders.

In the late 1850s, a global spiritual awakening began when one man in New York City established a noonday prayer meeting and called the city to prayer. Indeed, most awakenings have begun with a few praying people who invite others to join them.

With that historical backdrop in mind, I wonder what might happen if congregations begin to pray the following prayers for church leaders. Would you pray these prayers for church leaders today, and then invite others in your congregation to join you?

Deal of the Day

Preaching the Old Testament ed. Scott M Gibson $2.99

Book Review

Jeremy Treat. The Crucified King. Reviewed by Thomas Schreiner. (Themelios)


Eric Geiger. A Constant Struggle in a Growing Church.

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges leaders in growing churches face is the sense of failing to meet expectations, particularly of some who were in the church when the church was not as large as she currently is. Here are a couple of examples from recent conversations with church leaders…

David Schrock. Dramatizing the Gospel: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

Better than any comedic skit or high-tech video, baptism and the Lord’s Supper dramatize the gospel. And when churches properly execute these two rites, they present in a very local, personal, and powerful way the gospel of Jesus Christ. Continuing to think about the way that the church is God’s authorized evangelistic ‘program,’ I want to show how these two ordinances display the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Matt Manry. Reforming Our Discipleship.

With these thoughts in mind, we must ask ourselves a few tough questions. Does the Christian church need to rethink some of the ways in which it tries to reach millennials? Is there a need for the Christian church to reform some of the methods and techniques that are currently being used in discipleship? To put it bluntly, is there a massive overhaul that is needed within the church?

Well, I think the answer has to be both yes and no. Here are a few reasons why.


Psalm 33:4 “For the word of the Lord is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness.”

“The Bible speaks to you in the very tones of God’s voice.” C H Spurgeon

William Bridge on True Saving Peace

LiftingUpForDowncastWilliam Bridge’s excellent A Lifting Up for the Downcast has a startling excerpt on true peace. I call it startling because I am enamored with biblical theological discussion on peace. I feel like it is an underplayed aspect of God’s revelation in recent time. Peace with God is something each of us must long for and peace with God is something we would all like sustain. I love how Bridge binds peace to grace.

But to help a little in this, I will say something about the difference between true and false peace; and yet very briefly, thus: True saving peace is the child of grace, and the mother of grace. There is a peace that arises from the apprehension of God’s common goodness; which is common peace. And there is a special peace, that arises from the apprehension of God’s special favor and free grace; true peace is the daughter of that grace, yet it is also the parent of inherent grace, or of gracious actions … True saving peace is such a peace as is wrought by faith … True saving peace will live in the sight of sin. False peace cannot endure the sight of sin; a godly man, the more he sees his sin, unless he be under temptations, the more peace he has. (19)

View-Worthy: 12.2.14


Profit on Stupidity, Awe-full Church, Anti-Elders, Growing Leaders.


Cray Alfred. How to Capture People’s Stupidity and Profit from It Online. (CaPC)

We all know that you can start a wildfire on social media, and that posting something online is more or less a permanent action. We may be thankful that some of our dumber moments are as yet uncovered, forgotten or deleted without causing any uproar among our friends. We don’t like to acknowledge that those posts just might be getting spread by total strangers, right now, to thousands and thousands of people, without our knowledge.

Deal of the Day

Make, Mature, Multiply by Brandon Smith $0.99

Book Review

John Calvin. Institutes of Christian Religion, 1541. Reviewed by Paul Helm.


David Murray. 6 Steps to an Awe-full Church. (

In The Holiness of God, R C Sproul addressed the problem of large numbers of people leaving church because they are bored.  As we saw previously, Sproul’s solution is more awe in our worship services, which puts significant responsibility on the pastor or worship-leader. But it also places important obligations upon worshippers too if we are to be awed by the evident presence of God.

Tim Challies. 5 Ugly Qualities of the Anti-Elder.

It is tragic but undeniable: There are many, many people in positions of church leadership who should not be in positions of church leadership. There are many pastors who should not be pastors, many elders who have no business being elders.

Jeremy Writebol. 3 Ways to Grow Leaders. (GCD)

It was one of the best days I’d ever had in ministry. I was walking on clouds. All of my hard work, hours of leading, giving, investing, listening, coaching, and directing came to fruition. There was a wash of relief over me. I didn’t lay awake at night wondering how things would succeed or what would happen. Quite the opposite in fact, I knew things would be fine. They would be better than fine actually. I was so happy and excited I don’t think you could pull the smile from off of my face.


Proverbs 30:5 “Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.”

“The view which I maintain is that every book, and chapter, and verse and syllable of the Bible was given by inspiration of God.” J C Ryle

The Expected One by Scott James

TheExpectedOneThis review first appeared at Lifeway’s Pastors Today web blog.


Scott James. The Expected One: Anticipating All of Jesus in the Advent. Nashville: B&H Books, 2014. 73 pp. $9.99.


Church and Ministry


Christmas holiday cheer is in the air. If you’re like me, you want to enjoy it in every way. Christmas music, decorations, cookies, and gifts are one way to spread the cheer, but there is no better way than to meditate on the advent of Christ. If you’re also like me, the former Christmas festivities come easy. It’s easy to develop a tradition of decorating a tree, driving around town to look at Christmas lights, or count down to Christmas morning. In fact, sometimes those good and wonderful blessings distract from centering Christmas around Christ.

One way to keep this temptation at bay is to have a daily dose of the gospel throughout the Christmas season. A great resource to do this is Scott James’s, The Expected One: Anticipating All of Jesus in the Advent. Scott developed this twenty-five day devotional for the Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama, where he serves on the elder board.

Each devotional walks through an Old Testament promise that points to Christ, followed by a brief paragraph explaining the text. Then there is a series of questions meant to spur review and reflection. The devotional explores six promises that look forward expectantly to Christ and are worthy of reflection during advent: (1) the promise of his coming, page 11; (2) the promise of his birth, page 23; (3) the promise of his life, page 33; (4) the promise of his death, page 45; (5) the promise of his resurrection, page 55; and (6) the promise of his eternal reign, page 63.

Benefit for Pastoral Ministry

In the introduction, James remarks: “The material is primarily designed for families with children, but I think that anyone wanting to meditate deeply on Christ will find it helpful” (10). As I read through the devotional, I got really excited about sharing this material with my children. Some of the concepts will require explanation, but, for the most part, James presents the content in bite sizes that are digestible for families – even ones like mine that struggle to have all three children, six and under, sit for fifteen minutes.

Likewise, I enjoyed perusing this compact devotional, and though my experience with it was inspectional, I felt my heart fill with praise. My experience confirmed this assertion by James: “The image of the Child in the manger should fill our hearts with praise because we know what that Child would grow up to accomplish—He would save His people from their sins” (8). Indeed, The Expected One triumphantly puts the image of the coming King before us to gaze upon, enjoy, and savor throughout advent.

I enjoyed how Scott James focused this advent devotional upon Old Testament texts. The Expected One reinforces our anticipation of the Christ by examining texts that stirred Israel’s anticipation of the Messiah. James attentively selected Scriptures that are undisputed Messianic texts, among them are Scriptures such as: Isaiah 11:1, Micah 5:2, and Zechariah 9:9.

Each devotional is perceptively written. I was taken by December 12ths entry on Zephaniah 3:17. Here James asks us to reflect on the distinction between God sending someone else and God sending himself to rescue us. He explains, “Because God is the only One who is able to save us. Also, it shows how important the rescue mission is to Him – so important that He did not mind humbling Himself to come accomplish it” (39). What a simple, but, nonetheless, penetrating point to ponder!

Quite honestly, I could see this resource deployed in a number of other functions, besides simply families. Sunday school teachers could use this for their classes; weekly small groups might use it for an advent series; pastors could lead staff through a fifteen minute devotional during advent. The functions are numerous.


Essential            Recommended            Helpful            Pass It By


The Expected One centers readers on Christ during advent as they anticipate the coming King.

View-Worthy: 12.1.14


Stockpiling Treasures, When Dad Doesn’t Disciple, Frienemies, Calvinist’s Self-View


Margot Starbuck. Stockpiling Treasures in my Junk Closet. (CT)

Show me a Real Simple magazine article on “decluttering your home” and all I see is a stack of shiny pages to decoupage Christmas ornaments over the long Thanksgiving weekend. That’s how I roll: for years I’ve squirreled away craft supplies (aka stuff to make other stuff), torn backpacks (aka stuff to carry other stuff), matchless socks, rusty baking trays, extra linens, and shelves of books no one will ever open again. I certainly wasn’t the kind of person you’d think would be captured by a movement as horrible-sounding as “minimalism.”

Deal of the Day

Banner of Truth is having a crazy good cyber Monday 24hr sale on ebooks for $2. I recommend Old Paths, Practical Religion, Sermons of Robert Murray M’Cheyne, and Valley of Vision if you do not have these.

Book Review

Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel. Beloved Dust. Reviewed by Nathan Finn. (TGC)


Jen Wilkin. When Dad Doesn’t Disciple the Kids. (TGC)

Three kinds of “single moms” exist in the church: the literal single mom raising children on her own, the mom whose husband is an unbeliever, and the mom whose husband professes belief but does not partner in the spiritual nurture of the family. For the true single mom and the mom married to an unbeliever, the task is clear: train your children in the Lord because no one else will. For the wife of the believing father guilty of spiritual absenteeism, the lines are blurry. She lives in the tension between wanting to honor her spouse and wanting to spiritually equip her children.

All three “single moms” desperately need the support of the church, but in this article I want to focus specifically on the third mom, a woman trapped in a dilemma.

Matt Fretwell. 4 Tips in Dealing with Frienemies (Backstabbers). (SoG)

On March 15, 44 BC (Ides of March), deception came to Julius Caesar, who was literally stabbed in the back, while he pronounced the now famous words to his friend, “Et tu, Brute”? (meaning, “And you,” or “You too, Brutus?”).

Have you ever felt betrayed by a close friend? What about another Christian? How about an equal, a real companion? How did you react?

R. C. Sproul Jr.. Do Calvinists Have Too Low a View of Themselves? (Ligonier)

Perhaps. It is virtually impossible to have too low a view of ourselves by ourselves. We, all of us who are human, do indeed bear the image of God. Even that, however, is ultimately extrinsic to us. The imago, we need to understand isn’t essential to us in a sense, but is added to us. By ourselves, apart from His grace, we are but dust and rebellion. In His grace, however, He has imposed upon us, stamped upon us, His image. We humans thus have worth, dignity and value, though these are ultimately from without rather than within.


Colossians 4:2 “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.”

“Scripture is not only human witness to God, it is also divine self-testimony.” J. I. Packer

View-Worthy: 11.28.14


Benjamin Watson Speak on Ferguson, Thanking God, Anyabwile on Ferguson, Dispelling Doubts


Benjamin Watson. Benjamin Watson on Ferguson. (TGC)

At some point while I was playing or preparing to play Monday Night Football, the news broke about the Ferguson decision. After trying to figure out how I felt, I decided to write it down. Here are my thoughts…

Deal of the Day

Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold by C S Lewis .99

Book Review

Philip Freeman. The World of St. Patrick. Reviewed by Barry Cooper. (TGC)


David Murray. Thank God for God.

We all have so much to thank God for, but we often fail to thank God for Himself; that there is a God, that there is such a God, and that such a God is our God.

The Psalmists lead the way here in helping us celebrate God’s God-ness. For example, in Psalm 103 the Psalmist celebrates God as the Savior-King, and as the Creator-King in Psalm 104. He praises God as the Father of His children in Psalm 103 and as the Creator of His creatures in Psalm 104. Let’s join Him in Psalm 104 as he thanks God for God.

Thabiti Anyabwile. Four Common But Misleading Themes in Ferguson-like Times.

The United States is likely to be discussing Ferguson-related issues for a long time to come. Television crews have pulled out of the small town and will no doubt chase the next story they think important and ratings worthy. But an awful lot of people will still be processing, talking and acting in ways they think are best. I certainly intend to continue thinking, learning, reflecting, retracting, restating and engaging as much as the Lord allows me and seems useful. Thus, this is my third post this week on these events.

Charles Ware. 3 Spiritual Disciplines for Dispelling Defeating Doubts. (BCC)

My emotional energy drains as visions of utter failure replaces faith with fear. Feelings of inadequacy!

Are you confronted with your inadequacy at the moment of ministry, whether public or private? How do you recover at the critical moment? Over the years, the following three spiritual disciplines have helped strengthen me and increase my faith.


Psalm 69:30 “I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving.”

“The Bible is God’s book , not man’s book.” J. Gresham Machen

A Word for Self-Professing Christian Leadership Goo-Roos

Over the last five years of pastoral ministry I cannot count the number of times a man with a card passed his information to me about coaching me in leadership. As a pastor who pulls his Bible out in a public place — for instance a cafe like Starbucks or Panera — I’m an instant target for those who are looking to coach others. But rarely have these people ever met the litmus test I give for Christian Leadership Goo-Roos.

It’s a five question process that I use to measure whether the person is qualified to lead not just me but also others. On more than one occasion, I’ve asked this person: how long have you been doing this? Usually, I hear that they just started. That’s a red flag, but it’s a common one.

Let me tell you, if you can’t answer these five questions for the person you wish to coach, then you probably shouldn’t coach that person. If you can’t answer these questions at all, then you might want to rethink being a self-proclaimed Christian leadership goo-roo. They really are few and far between.

Here are my five questions with explanations:

1) Have You Led Longer Than I?

Though I’ve only been a full-time pastor for five years, I’ve served in Christian Leadership for fifteen years over all. I’ve served in a number of capacities. I served as the GM of Campus Dining Services at Dallas Seminary for five years while putting myself through seminary. Meanwhile, I functioned as a ministry head of a Jr. High Youth Ministry for five years and completed a number of internships now over my career.

I’m not trying to toot my own horn. Though Christian leadership is part of my DNA, I know I’m a limping leader. So much so that I wouldn’t pretend to say that I’m a goo-roo in leadership. I look to men like Al Mohler — who served as an editorial director and now as the President of the largest seminary in the world — to mentor me in leadership. I look for people with much greater capacity to lead, like Matt Perman, who is an expert in productivity.

If that’s the case for a guy who’s been leading at some capacity for fifteen years, then I think any person who intends to create a career out of Christian leadership consultation should think long and carefully about this commitment.

Age really doesn’t have anything to do with this. Perman is much younger, maybe only a few years older than I, whereas, Mohler is much more mature than either Perman or I. What counts is how long you’ve been leading and at what capacity.

If you’ve been a Christian Leader for fewer than five years and have not led a large organization, then you might not be the leadership goo-roo you think you are.

2) Are You Educated?

If you’re coaching someone in leadership, I’d like to think you have a Master of Arts or maybe even a Doctorate of Ministry in this discipline. That seems to be a reasonable expectation. These days seminaries have leadership tracks in their graduate programs. I still don’t really know what that means, and if I ever would have studied that track in graduate level education. But these leadership tracks exist; those who think that leadership is their gig should consider pursuing these educational tracks.

Regardless of proper education, leadership goo-roos should be widely read and studied in the area of leadership. If they don’t know who Robert Clinton is, I’d be concerned. At the same time, reading John Maxwell, Bill Hybels, Andy Stanley, Al Mohler, and Matt Perman does not necessarily make you a leader. I’ve read all those books, and like I said, I’m a limping leader at best. Longevity and presence in leadership is far more critical than reading a few books.

3) Are You Still Leading?

Leading longer and being more educated is big, but nothing is bigger than still leading. I’m always leary of consultants who are not presently leading. You have to be exceptional as a leader or in a unique transition to successfully make a long or short-term career as a leadership coach. If coaching is not something you are doing on the side, but it is your full-time gig, then you might be out of the leadership game. This, in my mind, makes you not qualified to coach leaders.

However, if you’re like my pastor, who is committed to coaching young leaders, while he pastors, then you might be the right kind of coach. That’s exactly why I’m I am doing my church planting internship where I’m doing it; Joe Thorn is the right kind of leader for me.

4) Are You Asking for a Fee?

I think coaching leaders is something leaders do, and charging a fee is not the way to do it. Older pastors should just lead younger pastors. Older non-for-prof leaders should just lead younger non-for-prof leaders. Leadership training needs to be more organic and less mechanic.

If someone walked up to me tomorrow and said, “Hey you served in youth ministry for a baker’s dozen years. Would you coach me in youth ministry?” I wouldn’t hesitate to exuberantly say, “Yes!”, and to do it for free. Of course, I’ve only got time to do one or two of those, which is precisely what my pastor does himself.

Few people have the time to sit down with a leadership coach let alone write a check to one as well. Most of us can build in a little margin to read a $10 book like Leaders Who Last by Dave Craft, Conviction to Lead by Al Mohler, or What’s Best Next by Matt Perman. Not many of us have $50-100 to cough up for a half-hour coffee with someone, especially if that person spends more time just chatting it up then focusing on leadership development.

5) What Is Your Leadership Presence?

Are you known publicly for leadership. Do you have a thriving, active multi-platform social media network? Do you have a written presence? Do you blog? Do you contribute to recognized Christian print or digital media? Do you go to conferences and keep up with what is going on not just in your niche of leadership but also the wider evangelical cultural environ? If I went to conferences and talked to my friends about you, would you be a known commodity? What would people say?

These are important considerations to ascertain whether a person is a qualified Christian leadership goo-roo.


Quite honestly, anyone can walk into a room or sit across the table from you with sticky notes, a marker board, and help you chart out your leadership or organizational vision. Anyone who has read a book or two can do this. It doesn’t take much to be a self-proclaimed leadership goo-roo.

Obviously, these metrics that I’ve used for myself are pretty superficial. But that’s how it goes at first. A leader’s character and credibility is measured over time. Up until that time passes, I have to lean on other’s words. But I’m just warning you, very few people are truly qualified to make a career out of being a Christian leadership consultant. Anyone can print up some business cards on Vista Print and start a wordpress site, few can make it last.

In 2013, during my year of transition from youth ministry into church planting, I met Dave Jewitt. Dave is a local Christian leader and coach in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He met all of my criteria.

He coached me through his curriculum, Your One Degree. He’s created a network of coaches, men who volunteer to lead other men to develop biblical purpose. Jewitt, though not so much trying to help people lead, as he helps people find their one purpose, played an invaluable role in my life for a few months. I’m forever grateful for him, and his generosity to give time and interest in a young leader.

Dave is able to do what he does because he has a board of directors that fully fund his ministry. He’s been elevated to his role of leadership because he selflessly helped many men over the course of twenty years. Those men give him the freedom to shine at what he does.

Those kind of leadership coaches are rare. There is certainly a place for them in Christian culture. But for the most part, all us other limping leaders need to create margin and capacity to develop leaders as we go. That’s the best way that we’ll help the next generation of Christian leaders.